5 Things HR Professionals Can Learn From The Arthashastra

Over the course of time, Indian and international policies and state mechanisms have been religiously borrowed from ancient Indian texts such as Bhagvat Gita, Mahabharata, etc. Even concepts of management and administration have been inculcated in sync with the principles and ideas laid down by such texts. While talking about management, we cannot leave out the doctrine of Arthashastra.

An intelligent text on the principles of economics and administration, Arthashastra was written in the 4th Century BC by a political philosopher named Kautilya. As a minister and adviser to Chandragupt Maurya, Kautilya knew a thing or two (much more than that!) about effective management. Kautilya or Chanakya in the Shastra talks about virtues of leadership, honesty, hard work, and what an ideal leader should do so that the state is governed smoothly. Sound familiar? Isn’t HR also about these virtues and the need for an efficient management system that saves a company a huge deal of time and cost?

Well, Human Resources (HR), as we know it, is omnipresent and responsible for managing the dynamics of a company. A team of HR professionals is always on their toes and it is vital for them to learn how to manage. While there are umpteen courses and sources of practical knowledge from where an HR can learn the skill set of managing people, some tips from Chanakya himself wouldn’t harm.

Here are 5 things HR professionals can learn from Kautilya’s Arthashastra:

1. Leadership

In the Arthasastra, Kautilya talks about the qualities of an ideal leader (svamisampad). He says that a leader should emulate qualities that inspire confidence in others and make the leader easily approachable. If you are heading the department of HR in a company, then according to Kautilya, you should also be truthful, have the ability to comprehend challenges, and possess the strength of mind and character. The ability to decide what’s best for a company in a given situation is also an ideal quality of a leader, according to the Shastra.

The leader should also be able to create order instead of letting the team slip into chaos. Maintaining order and a healthy hierarchy will only bring the company growth and success.

leadership in office

2. Welfare

“Bahujana sukhaya, bahujana hitayacha” – the welfare of the many and the happiness of the many.

This concept of welfare and happiness has often been incorporated as a basic principle of corporate management. Not only should HR professionals work towards ensuring that the firm reaches milestones and goals, but they should also ensure that the employees are happy. Human Resources experts should create a lively environment in the workspace through recreational activities, fun group exercises, etc. Arthashastra talks about the idea of promoting welfare in a State (company) really enthusiastically. It emphasizes that if the well-being of people is maintained, then the state will grow in all aspects.

Thus, as HR professionals, if you focus on the happiness of your employees, then it will boost productivity and increase employee engagement.


3. Management

Arthashastra has left umpteen concepts of administration and management as its legacy. In fact, many ideas of management are still followed in corporate settings. In the Shastra, Chanakya advised the ruler of the State (svamin) to manage his kingdom on the principles of ‘Prabhu Shakti’ or vision, ‘Mantra Shakti’ or mission, and ‘Utsah Shakti’ or motivation.

For HR professionals, these principles are key to manage the internal dynamics of a firm and drive performance. The various aspects also help HR professionals align individual and organizational goals. With a combination of these principles, HR professionals can ensure better business outcomes and at the same time, create a good employee experience.

management of a company

4. Organization

Kautilya laid down a systematic structure of the organization in form of hierarchy wherein, the leader in the head. The members of a team occupy various positions in this hierarchy and owe a responsibility to their assigned roles. This structure of responsibilities helps the company run more efficiently and smoothly as everyone owns up to their part.

This hierarchy also prevents the company from going into ‘matsanyaya’ or a state of complete chaos. Without a hierarchical structure, HR professionals won’t be able to allocate duties to those who are equipped to deal with them. Now, having a hierarchical structure doesn’t mean, authority has to flow only top down. And everyone has to follow the long chain of communication. In fact, most young startups today follow a flat and agile structure. The teams are more flexible, yet a little structure is required.


5. Ethics

Every single human being is bound by some ethical compass, and HR professionals are no exception. Kautilya has emphasized the virtue of righteousness or ‘Dharma’ over and again in the Arthashastra. Corporate professionals should ensure that they work towards the growth of a company and not sabotage it through deceitful practices. According to Kautilya, people should follow their dharma and practice the virtues of honesty and truthfulness. This can happen when a professional has absolute control over the six enemies of his mind – desires (kama), arrogance (mada), infatuation (moha), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), and envy (matsara).

organizational ethics

The Arthshastra may have been written thousands of years ago, but its ideas are as fresh today. HR professionals can learn a huge deal from the teaching of Kautilya and emulate them to ensure that they work to the best of their capacity to contribute to a company.

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